Ex-spy's guinea pigs, cat become latest targets in row over nerve-agent attack

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson questions why British officials incinerated the pets found at the home of poisoned ex-spy Sergei Skripal, claiming they were important evidence.

Russian ambassador claims his country is the victim of a defamation campaign

Police officers stand guard outside the home of former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, Britain, on March 8. British officials incinerated pets found at Skripal's home, prompting concerns by a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson who says it was important evidence. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson is questioning why British officials incinerated pets found at the home of poisoned ex-spy Sergei Skripal.

Maria Zakharova said on Facebook on Friday that the two guinea pigs and a cat that lived in the former double agent's Salisbury home were important evidence.

Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the guinea pigs were found dead at the home after it was sealed off to investigators.

It said the cat was also found "in a distressed state and a decision was taken by a veterinary surgeon to euthanize the animal to alleviate its suffering."

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain in a British hospital, more than a month after the poison attack. (Misha Japaridze/AP; Yulia Skripal/Facebook via AP)

Britain blamed Russia for the March 4 nerve agent attack on Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who both remain in hospital. Russia vehemently denied the accusations.

On Thursday, Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia claimed that Russia was the victim of a hasty, sloppy and ill-intentioned defamation campaign by London and its allies.

In response to the attack, more than two dozen Western allies including Britain, the U.S. and NATO have ordered out more than 150 Russian diplomats in a show of solidarity. The diplomatic turmoil has hit lows unseen even at the height of the Cold War.

Moscow assumes "with a high degree of probability" that the intelligence services of other countries are likely responsible for the incident, Nebenzia said at the UN.